By Aquene Freechild, Senior Organizer with the Democracy Is For People campaign.
Americans are taking to the streets and standing up to corporate greed and injustice. This is a moment to make our voices heard. As we are protesting the forces that are consolidating economic and political power, we should not lose sight of what we’re fighting for.
Despite deep and trying struggles for a better society, most people can look around and have much to be thankful for. I hold a degree from an affordable public college; I enjoy safe and healthy food; I recovered from asthma thanks to cleaner air; I love our public transportation systems and bike lanes in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.; and I love my neighbors, family, and the community we have built and are building.
To express my love of these things and to defend my rights and the rights of those I care for, I love to vote.
Yet according to a Brennan Center report, in the coming election more than 5 million voters may see that right taken away from them due to changes in voting laws. For all but a few of these 5 million people the right to vote was fought for and won, as once only the wealthy, white and male could vote. It is a right some are still fighting for, and for which many more will have to fight now.
How is this tied into money and politics? According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 34 states saw Voter ID laws introduced in the last year. Voter ID laws disproportionately impact, and effectively disenfranchise, senior citizens, students, people of color, and lower-income Americans. And they, and other disenfranchisement measures, are being written and promoted by a corporate-state legislative body called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC drafts model laws and promotes them to state legislatures for passage.
But ALEC has been around for 30 years. What made it so successful now?
Certainly the sweep of ultra-conservative victories on the state level has played a significant role. Also, since 2010, legislators who vote against what are perceived as corporate interests are more easily threatened with outside attacks when they come up for re-election. Those who vote against a Voter ID law or any other ALEC-drafted legislation may be attacked in baseless negative ads on any number of unrelated issues. Even if such an attack is not forthcoming, the mere possibility of it is enough to have a chilling effect for many legislators, particularly those in swing districts.
The comprehensive solution to this blight on our democracy: join us in rising up for democratic rights, and striking at the root of this threat, by calling for a constitutional amendment to stop corporations from pouring unlimited amounts of money into elections.
January 21, 2012 is the two-year anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court’s ruling that enormous corporations can spend as much money as they want to drown out the voices of real people in our democracy.
It will be a day of action around the country – calling for state and local resolutions in favor of an amendment and raising awareness.
We’ve created a flyer for the 21st day of action; a constitutional amendment petition to take to rallies and events, and an even more comprehensive Local Organizing Toolkit. Join us in defending democratic rights for the sake the people and things that we love.